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Economies & development

A great deal of variation characterises the economy of Namibia. There are the formal, well-known economic measures and resources: gross domestic product (GDP), Gini coefficient, imports and exports, for instance. Some aspects of the formal economy are described in this chapter and elsewhere, such as mineral resources, tourism, commercial farming, employment, and marine fisheries. Other major features of the economy are poorly documented, are less understood or of limited interest to economists, such as the values of remittances and capital assets, sustainable development, human happiness, and the informal economy.

As one might expect, there have been significant changes in the socioeconomic landscape of the county, and it continues to evolve. New livelihoods and land uses introduced over the past 130 years is one example, another is the escalating movement over the past 50 years of labour and productive energy from rural areas and subsistence livelihoods to towns and income-based livelihoods. Policies and attitudes towards the use of natural resources have also changed: whereas exploitation and slaughter were norms 50 years ago, nowadays wildlife and indigenous plants are valued, protected and managed for their aesthetic and economic values in many parts of Namibia.

These changes have taken place over time. Other variation has spatial and/or socioeconomic dimensions: between the arid west and south and the wetter northeast; between formal and informal urban homes; between communal and commercial farming areas; and between rural and urban Namibia. This diversity underscores the many different ways in which Namibians make a living.

Photo: The bright lights of Windhoek and other cities beckon, enticing rural people to incomes, services and goods that are seldom available in the countryside. These urban incomes support the cities' residents and often, via remittances, relatives who have remained in rural villages. Many city dwellers, in turn, also benefit from capital resources in their home villages. These growing cities with their increasing concentrations of people, businesses and industries consume considerable amounts of power and water, driving Namibia to turn to innovative supply schemes and effective systems to manage their use.